Obama's next battle: 5 theories

With the health care victory under his belt, what's Obama's next big thing?

Barack Obama.
(Image credit: Corbis)

Even before his signature dried on the health care reform bill, pundits were busy speculating about how President Obama planned to capitalize on his momentum and what major policy issue he would tackle next. Here, five theories:

1. Jobs

The nation's high, 9.7 percent unemployment rate is widely seen as the Democrats' biggest political vulnerability, so with health care in the "rear view mirror," Obama's "focus now becomes how to create jobs," say Matthew Jaffe and Karen Travers in ABC News. Don't look for any massive jobs bill, though, says Reuters. Job creation will be tackled through "stealth tactics": Passing a number of small bills to "avoid the sticker shock of last year's $787 billion stimulus package."

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2. Immigration reform

No, it's "next up: immigration," says Reuben Navarrette in CNN. Democrats may be loath to take on another "emotional and contentious" issue, but Obama won backing for health care from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus by pledging support for comprehensive immigration reform, via a bipartisan bill by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D - N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R - S.C.). Obama "needed a push," and he can't go back on his word now.

3. Banking reform

Obama recognizes that "it's time to put financial reform front and center," says Andrew Leonard in Salon. Reining in Wall Street was the focus of his last weekly address, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner gave his "fiercest" pitch yet for greater bank regulation. Passing health care gave banking reform some "much needed momentum," and now the smart money's on a bill passing this year.

4. Mideast peace

There are a lot of ways Obama's big win on health care could strengthen his efforts to facilitate a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, says Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy. But maybe the biggest lesson is that Obama knows how to play — and win — the "long game." With the spat over Israeli settlements, things look bleak now, but things looked just as bad for health care in January. Then, suddenly, he won.

5. Climate change

Senate Democrats are asking Obama to focus on a climate-change bill by Sens. Graham, John Kerry (D - MA), and Joe Lieberman (I - CT). Climate change, like health care, was widely considered dead in the water earlier this year, and the bill is "surely more likely" to be voted on, or even passed, after Obama's health care win, says Richard Black in BBC News. Or perhaps less likely, argues Bill Murray in Energy Intelligence, given the partisan rancor of the health debate and the unwillingness of Democrats to stick their neck out again before midterm elections.

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